Need help choosing tripod and ball head
After many hours of research I've decided on a carbon fiber Gitzo Tripod and Markins Ballhead, but I need help choosing the right sizes. I plan to use this set up for photographing horse events, portraits, and landscapes. My camera is a Nikon D7000. I expect to stay within the 200 mm lens length.
TRIPOD: I find the Gitzo tripod specs to be a bit overwhelming. I'm not clear on the difference between the Mountaineer and the Systematic, other than the center column which can be removed. What difference does it make which tripod you get, so long as the height without using the center column is sufficient? What purpose does the center column serve? I've read that it makes your tripod into a monopod, which isn't good. Is there a special part to put on if you remove the center column? None of this is made clear on the Gitzo website.
I'm only 5' 4" (64") tall, so using the formula on the Tripod Info page on this site, I can subtract 12" and get by with a tripod having a max. ht. of 52". Please correct me if I'm wrong on this! Is it ok to select a tripod that has the max. ht. you need, or would it be better to pick one that is a bit taller and keep the legs retracted for more stability? If all were priced the same, which tripod below would be best for me? There are some weight differences in the following choices, and obviously a lighter tripod will be nicer to carry around...but maybe the heavier one is more stable? Please help me make sense of all this.
The tripods that have a max. ht. of 52" include:
GT 2531 3 lb 54.3" max. ht.
GT 3531 4.7 lb 52.4" max. ht.
GT 3541 4.4 lb 52.0" max. ht
GT3541LS 3.8 lb 57.5" max. ht.
The Markins Q10 with lever release is probably the way to go. Yes/no?
Regular flat plate - does it matter which brand? I see Markins has their own plate available for the D7000. Is that an ok plate? Is this plate permanently attached to the camera?
Is the L-Bracket (used instead of a plate plate) permanently attached to the camera?
Are there any other parts I am missing? I really want to order this stuff and get on with taking some pictures!
#1. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 0mbecke2266 Nikonian since 27th Jun 2011Sat 18-Feb-12 12:30 AM
I do not understand why most of you folks default to the very expensive Gitzo tripods. The Gitzo's are good tripods, but I just tested an Induro tripod earlier today that was every bit as good, if not slightly superior, to the Gitzo at about 2/3rd's the cost. I don't get it. I was always taught to seek the product which provides maximum value.
The Markins ball head is a good choice. Will last you a long time.
Visit my Nikonians gallery.
#3. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 1Sat 18-Feb-12 02:51 AM
>I do not understand why most of you folks default to the very
>expensive Gitzo tripods. The Gitzo's are good tripods, but I
>just tested an Induro tripod earlier today that was every bit
>as good, if not slightly superior, to the Gitzo at about
>2/3rd's the cost. I don't get it. I was always taught to
>seek the product which provides maximum value.
>The Markins ball head is a good choice. Will last you a long
Thanks for your input. I know nothing about the Induro brand tripod, except this review that I found:
The Induro tripod in this review might not be the same as your tripod, but still, I think it is a testament to the qualitative difference between Induro and Gitzo. If you have specific data/comparisons between the two, aside from price, I'd like to see it. ~ Deidre
#2. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 0
First the head because that's the easy part .
The Markins is a great choice. I have three . The lever can be a good choice but you must carefully select your plate maker and stick with that plate maker forever. With a screw clamp you don't have to worry about that.
Markins makes an L bracket only for the D700. For that reason alone you may want to choose Kirk or RRS for your plate maker. I personally use mostly RRS and Wimberly, with a couple of Kirk items that are very unique. Wimberly guarantees compatibility and they inter-operate well with my RRS plates in my own RRS lever clamp. RRS and Wimberly have some features I like that I may not find with Kirk plates.
Kirk is generally, but not 100% compatible with RRS levers. With an adjustable lever it should not be as much of a problem or any problem at all but I think sticking with known fully compatible plates helps ensure consistent lever action feel across all your plates. It also simplifies the thought process
I generally recommend a Markins Q10 for Series 2 and a Q20 for a Series 3 or better. The differences are subtle but the price difference is modest ($50 or so). The M20 is just better proportioned for the Series 3 and offers a bit better performance with some lenses, especially very nose heavy lenses like my 24-70/2.8 AFS.
You can leave an L bracket on the camera or take it off when desired. The attachment is identical to a flat bottom plate, with one screw into the camera's underside threaded hole. It just has the extra left side rail.
Now the hard part, the tripod
Keep in mind that Gitzo is in the middle of a product line revamp. The new models will end in a '2', such as GT3542LS replacing GT3541LS. I have not seen a new model but I am impressed with some significant improvements they have made. These improvements are worth waiting for, especially in the Systematic line.
They have announced the new Systematic line but I have seen nothing specific about the Mountaineer versions.
I am 5'7" and own an older Gitzo Series 2 Mountaineer G1228, which has the same dimensions as the GT2541 at about 52" height. That is exactly what i need for general eye level shooting on perfectly level ground, which rarely exists outdoors off of man made surfaces. Except putting greens . Extra height is good.
Although the 52" tripods will work for you, a 57-60" tripod may give you needed height on slopes or shooting above eye level. You just have to choose between height and additional price, weight, and most importantly folded length.
The differences between Systematics and Mountaineers can get complicated and you can more or less convert one into the other...
With a Systematic you can add a center column.
With a Mountaineer you can add a Markins TB-21 or TB-30 replacement plate and make it very similar to a systematic with flat plate (but not with easily swapped top options).
With either you can ditch the entire mount and buy a Markins replacement hub and they turn into exactly the same thing .
Although it is often said that a tripod with a center column is a monopod on top of a tripod, that assumes you raise the column. Gitzo Mountaineers are very good, stock, with the center column down. And even raising the column a few inches to tweak a precisely required height from time to time will not end the world as we know it. On the other hand, it is a bad idea, in my opinion, to buy a tripod too short to get to eye level without raising the column.
The big disadvantage of a center column is that it can interfere with getting down low. Personally I tend to shoot either eye level or very low, and not much in between. That satisfies the demands of my back and neck.
Gitzo Mountaineers have a "ground level set" feature that lets you remove the center column. I have heard mixed opinions regarding the stability of that configuration. I have never worked with one in the ground level set mode.
I own two systematics, plus one Mountaineer that usually has a Markins TB-20 replacement plate on it. Sometimes I would like a center column to make fine adjustments in non-demanding situations where a couple of inches, max, of center column extension is not going to impair my image. Those are cases where I need my height aligned within a fraction of an inch. But any time I am shooting down low I am glad I don't have to deal with that with any of my tripods.
A Systematic is about $100 less expensive than an equivalent Mountaineer. It costs about $150 or so to add a center column to a Systematic and it is easily swapped for the standard flat plate. If you are unsure of where you stand on this I think the Systematic makes sense. If you find you can't live without a center column you have options and it only costs an extra $50 or so.
For a given max height, a Systematic will have a shorter folded length. Or for a given folded length, a Systematic will go 3-5" higher depending on number of sections.
For 200mm, you can go either Series 2 or Series 3. A Series 3 is not overkill for 200mm, or really any focal length. It will stand up better to more challenging conditions such as wind.
I shoot the GT3541LS. If you look at the specs and compare to a GT2541 you will see that there is not much difference in weight or price or folded length but the Systematic goes 5" higher. The main difference is the larger girth of the Systematic mount design.
I think the GT3541LS in particular made it unnecessary in many cases to compromise on a Series 2. A Series 3 will hang with you if you find a need to shoot longer lenses some day. A Series 3 is truly a lifetime investment because even if you have a need for a larger tripod like the Series 5 some day, most people doing that retain a Series 3 for portability reasons. Anything bigger is more of a specialty tripod. For those reasons it is very difficult to outgrow a Series 3.
A lot of people do walk down the focal length trail and need to upgrade their Series 2's. In many cases they had no thoughts of longer focal lengths when they bought the Series 2.
Hope this helps. If you have a headache already, just buy a GT3541LS, a Q20, and some nice RRS plates. You'll love it. Otherwise, feel free to follow up with any questions .
But seriously, you have lots of choices and this is a big investment so try to take your time and ask all the questions. Done with careful thought, it can be a lifetime investment or you could realize you bought the wrong model a month from now.
my Nikonians gallery.
#4. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 2Sat 18-Feb-12 02:18 PM
Thanks for you help! I have inserted my questions in bold in between your comments.
>The lever can be a good choice but you must carefully select your plate
>maker and stick with that plate maker forever. With a screw
>clamp you don't have to worry about that.
I still do not understand why a Markins Q-20 ball head with lever release matched up with a Markins plate will not serve me in the future?
On the Markins website, there is a choice. You can buy their ball head with a screw head or a lever release. I'm assuming Markins makes the entire assembly.
Are you saying the lever release part is made by RRS? And therefore you need a RRS plate?
It would be so much easier if we had the equipment sitting on a table and someone could point these things out! :0
>Markins makes an L bracket only for the D700. For that reason
>alone you may want to choose Kirk or RRS for your plate maker.
> I personally use mostly RRS and Wimberly, with a couple of
>Kirk items that are very unique. Wimberly guarantees
>compatibility and they inter-operate well with my RRS plates
>in my own RRS lever clamp. RRS and Wimberly have some
>features I like that I may not find with Kirk plates.
Please clarify the compatibility issue. You have one plate attached to the camera at a time, correct? Markins plate fits on a Markins ball head (with either screw clamp or lever release). Take off the Markins plate, put on a RRS L-bracket. You already said the RRS L-bracket fits the Markins Q-20 ball head.
>Kirk is generally, but not 100% compatible with RRS levers.
>With an adjustable lever it should not be as much of a problem
>or any problem at all but I think sticking with known fully
>compatible plates helps ensure consistent lever action feel
>across all your plates. It also simplifies the thought
By all means, let's simplify the thought process! It seems like maybe the lever release is a problematic choice and not worth the hassle. What do you mean, "all your plates"? How many plates does a person need?
>Now the hard part, the tripod :-)
I'm glad you think this is the hard part, LOL. For me, ball head/plate compatibility is the hard part.
>Keep in mind that Gitzo is in the middle of a product line
>revamp. The new models will end in a '2', such as GT3542LS
>replacing GT3541LS. I have not seen a new model but I am
>impressed with some significant improvements they have made.
>These improvements are worth waiting for, especially in the
I'm willing to wait for the new GT3541LS. I like the idea of extra height and extra stability in the 3 Series. Like you said, I can always ad a center column to this later on if I wish to. Any idea when the new improved model might be available?
>I am 5'7" and own an older Gitzo Series 2 Mountaineer
>G1228, which has the same dimensions as the GT2541 at about
>52" height. That is exactly what i need for general eye
>level shooting on perfectly level ground, which rarely exists
>outdoors off of man made surfaces. Except putting greens :-).
> Extra height is good.
If you are 5' 7" (67") how can 52" be adequate for you to shoot at eye level? I would think you would need a minimum of 55" to avoid bending over?
>Hope this helps. If you have a headache already, just buy a
>GT3541LS, a Q20, and some nice RRS plates. You'll love it.
>Otherwise, feel free to follow up with any questions :-).
>But seriously, you have lots of choices and this is a big
>investment so try to take your time and ask all the questions.
> Done with careful thought, it can be a lifetime investment or
>you could realize you bought the wrong model a month from
No headache! You are very helpful and I appreciate your taking the time to explain everything.
I'm going to go for the Markins Q-20 and the Gitzo GT3541LS. It's just a matter of choosing the plates. If you wouldn't mind answering my follow-up questions, that would help me a lot.
#6. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 4Sat 18-Feb-12 04:25 PM
>Thanks for you help! I have inserted my questions in bold in
>between your comments.
>I still do not understand why a Markins Q-20 ball head with
>lever release matched up with a Markins plate will not serve
>me in the future?
>Are you saying the lever release part is made by RRS? And
>therefore you need a RRS plate?
>It would be so much easier if we had the equipment sitting on
>a table and someone could point these things out! :0
The Markins lever is very new. Previous to the Markins lever many of us bought Markins heads and installed RRS levers because we wanted a lever and at that time it was the lever of choice. Markins makes and designs their own lever but they've only been doing it for a couple of years now.
The RRS lever is NOT adjustable and requires a very tight plate tolerance even to function properly, and more importantly, safely. A plate that is a half millimeter too narrow can slide right out of an RRS lever.
I was told by Kirk that essentially the tolerances required for an RRS lever require additional setup and maintenance of the CNC machines, beyond what those machines typically produce. The other tolerances required for Arca-Swiss plate machining - outside of at least that particular lever clamp - are easily met without such care and attention. That means that it can cost considerable time and money to keep a CNC machine within the tolerance needed for that clamp.
As an example, years ago we had reports of Markins plates sliding right out of RRS levers. Meaning the lever got no tension at all.
Kirk more or less claims lever compatibility with RRS, but not publicly on their site and those that have talked to them about this get somewhat different answers, maybe depending on when they had their discussion and who they talked to and what problems the Kirk tech had run into the prior week .
I have a Kirk 300/4 AFS replacement collar that fits perfectly in my RRS lever. Many people here claim that their Kirk plates work fine.
I have a Kirk FR-1 focusing rail that a Kirk tech told me is especially problematic. It was never clear to me why they had a problem with only that plate, and maybe a couple others.
For 6 years I thought my own FR-1 fit my RRS lever perfectly and it was a mystery to me why Kirk told me it wouldn't or shouldn't. One day I installed it and pushed hard on the end of my plate with my thumb and it very slowly slipped. This is just to say that as much experience as I have with this stuff (7 years now and maybe over a dozen different plates) I could have had an accident if I had stressed that rail with enough payload with the plate in a vertical orientation, and/or maybe doing an over the shoulder carry.
When I got my D300 I bought a Kirk L bracket for my MB-D10. It worked with the RRS lever but the tension required to close the lever was greater than any other of my dozen or so plates. While it was perfectly safe and some would argue safer than all the others, the time I would have spent getting an extra finger on the lever would have nullified the marginal benefit of a lever. In other words, if a lever clamp is not lightning fast I see no point in using one and dealing with all these compatibility issues. It's only a few seconds difference and some extra wrist twisting to work a screw clamp.
Now... here is the critical part
I do not own a Markins lever (I would like to but can't justify the expense yet, nor the issue of dealing with the thread locker on my other Markins heads). But in some ways they all have to behave similarly and here I am extrapolating things based on my experience with the RRS lever.
Unlike the RRS lever, the Markins lever is adjustable. However, the last thing you want is to have to change that adjustment when you swap plates. You want to make that adjustment one time, to best fit whatever plates you select. Any future adjustments should be only for the purpose of changing the tension and feel for all your plates, no matter how many you have.
I have occasionally seen criticisms of RRS's rather light tension, which is part of the compatibility problem with their levers because there is no adjustment, no tweak you can make. Some people are not even comfortable with their level of tension. I have never seen a credible report that would suggest their tension level is not safe but as a user I have to admit it takes some act of faith to get fully comfortable with it. And I would NOT carry a heavy payload over my shoulder with a plate that does not have stop pins installed. That is just the best I can express my own personal comfort level with that particular act of faith.
With the Markins you can set the lever to whatever tension gives you a full personal comfort level. For that reason alone I suspect the Markins lever is a superior lever in what is most important and least understood about these levers (how much tension is really necessary and for what purpose).
Because the Markins lever is adjustable I suspect it is possible to find a happy medium tension that safely accommodates plate width tolerances that simply would not work in an RRS lever. I have seen some reports that suggest just that.
However, it is my deep seated personal belief that if I am going to use a lever clamp I want all of my plates to have identical tension. I don't want some plates that take that extra second or two to manipulate. Nor do I want to try to "fix" that by setting tension such that my narrower plates might have a problem that is not terribly obvious, similar to the problem I now have with my very expensive Kirk FR-1 rail. And I can see that search for a happy medium tension ending in disaster if not done with extreme care and precision. And most importantly I don't want my gear held up solely by some mechanism that requires that exquisite level of precision.
I can only assume the Markins plates are made to the same level of tolerance that RRS plates have always been made. That is just a necessary act of faith because we get relatively few reports on Markins plates in lever clamps and I am comfort with that act of faith.
However, because I ideally want the most perfect tolerance possible among my plates I need a line of plates that will fully satisfy me. Markins makes one L bracket and I have 4 camera bodies, with 2 in active use. That reason alone precludes me from using their plates and because of that and the historic concerns with their plates in my RRS lever I do not own a single Markins plate.
You mentioned the possibility of an L bracket on your D7000 and that alone is the reason I didn't suggest a Markins plate. That plate doesn't exist.
I started out like you, with one camera and one plate for that camera (a D70 L bracket), and a plate for my 70-200. Now I have over a dozen because of various long collared lenses that need plates, my FR-1 focusing rail, my RRS Long Lens Support package, 5 L brackets for 4 bodies plus my MB-D10, and some other miscellaneous concoctions.
When someone asks about levers and plates, for simplicity and long term "future proofing", I assume the worst case, that they will go down the road I did, with far more plates than I ever imagined in 2004 when I started this adventure. I started with screw clamps and didn't even buy a lever until at least 3 years later. However, I knew I might try a lever some day so I carefully set myself up for that eventuality.
If someone gets into the RRS plate line and never acquires a large number of plates I see no downside other than maybe spending a few extra bucks on the plate. And there is very little difference in plate prices among quality plate makers.
If you look at various plate maker offerings, you will see that RRS's line is by far the largest. Kirk is not far behind and really Kirk makes enough stuff to satisfy most people. There is no one else even close although there is a rather new maker named "Hejnar" who seems to be moving in that direction and has made huge progress. I don't know enough about Hejnar's plates to even begin to talk about it. If I needed a new plate maker I would investigate.
However, since Kirk cannot guarantee RRS's level of tolerance (and they try hard!) I only assume that if I put just the 3 Kirk products I own or have owned (Sold the MB-D10 L bracket) in any lever I would see more tension variation than I see with my RRS/Wimberly plates (virtually zero). That may or may not be the case- I cannot say with certainty without spending a fortune on test samples. However, it is a distinct possibility and therefore I need a compelling reason to recommend other than RRS plates and that compelling reason does not exist. RRS also offers some features Kirk does not, such as double dovetail rails that are helpful or necessary for my Wimberly flash bracket system depending on configuration.
The above is a very long winded explanation of my own personal plate choice and why I think what is best for me is also the best choice for most people here, with the little we know or could know about an uncertain future.
While my needs go far beyond yours at the moment, I don't know where you or anyone else may go in the unknown future. What I do know is that I have never outgrown the RRS plate system and I know of no conceivable reason why anyone else would. There may be a plate here or there or some insignificant feature available from someone else but no other maker I know of is as "future proof" as RRS and therefore I have 100% comfort recommending them.
The above is far more than what you might want to know, and you might understand why I rarely explain this in this level of detail. In fact this is likely the most comprehensive explanation I've ever put to a reply here. This is why I typically just say "buy RRS" or compatible (Wimberly) plates . And you did ask
The above are my opinions based on my experience and credible reports I've seen over the past 7 years. It is not necessarily the last word on this very complex and possibly not fully knowable issue of compatibility. No matter what we think we know it is all dependent on (often anecdotal) sample variation by various makers, past present and future.
>Please clarify the compatibility issue. You have one plate
>attached to the camera at a time, correct? Markins plate fits
>on a Markins ball head (with either screw clamp or lever
>release). Take off the Markins plate, put on a RRS L-bracket.
>You already said the RRS L-bracket fits the Markins Q-20 ball
I think this should be covered in the above?
>By all means, let's simplify the thought process! It seems
>like maybe the lever release is a problematic choice and not
>worth the hassle. What do you mean, "all your
>plates"? How many plates does a person need?
I covered my plate inventory above .
It is impossible to simplify this thought process beyond the following:
1. If you want total simplicity, get a screw clamp.
2. If you insist on a lever clamp, you will have the highest probability of the best success by selecting one single line of plates (or guaranteed compatible like Wimberly). If you do this you should future proof yourself by selecting the most comprehensive line possible, with careful consideration of expected plate tolerance within that line.
3. Any given person's needs may be different than mine and therefore in that case a different maker could make more sense but I could never figure that out and the typical first time Arca-Swiss QR buyer here could not either, at least in terms of the unknown future adventures he may take on.
4. My advice to use RRS plates is based on a very comprehensive analysis of the offerings I know of, and all the possible applications that members here might need. In that regard it is the "safest" choice, in my humble opinion.
5. I have enough uncertainty about the real world specifics on this that I started a "Lever Clamp Survey" thread and pinned it to the top of the forum list in order to encourage as much input on this as possible.
And finally, just to be clear on the screw clamps...
A screw clamp will accommodate any "Arca-Swiss compatible plate". The jaw travel is such that any plate that does not work in any major maker's screw clamp is almost by definition not "Arca-Swiss Compatible".
A screw clamp takes a few extra seconds and a little extra wrist action to swap plates. In my opinion, that is not worth dealing with lever clamp issues and locking yourself into one maker if all you do is change lenses or mount and dismount your camera every now and then during a session.
I think it is worth dealing with in the case where you use L brackets. The whole point of an L is to facilitate portrait orientation. That may require frequent clamping and unclamping (each time you swap orientation). That is the sole reaosn I can think of that justifies even dealing with the lever compatibility issue.
You can make a screw clamp as tight as you want and you can, by design, easily change the tension each time you clamp down a plate. For that reason a lot of people believe that screw clamps are safer. I would never argue that point.
I believe screw clamps are safer at the margins but on the other hand I believe my own RRS lever is "safe enough", given care and attention to things. That same care applies to screw clamps. For example, my recommendation to use stop pins whenever possible unless your clamp (like the Markins) has an integral stop pin that actually works with your plates (that is a complex subject in itself and we could get into that if you want ).
I think a relatively few people believe lever clamps are safer than screw clamps. However, considering they are a statistical minority and this is mostly about personal peace of mind, I won't go into the details. More people will feel safer with screw clamps than lever clamps although many people are comfortable enough to use levers. This is purely a statistical game.
>If you are 5' 7" (67") how can 52" be
>adequate for you to shoot at eye level? I would think you
>would need a minimum of 55" to avoid bending over?
Based on my tripods, I know for a fact that with my typical setup, a 52" tripod height puts the camera viewfinder precisely at upper lip level. Depending on your needs and close focus vision, you will want the camera slightly lower, but not so low that it causes neck strain.
If you are trying to compute the exact perfect eye level height there is a fundamental conflict between ideal neck comfort - perfect straight on view to the viewfinder - and the need to see the top of the camera. You can't do both at once.
For that reason I consider upper lip level to be typical ideal "eye level height". Because I have extreme close focus issues, that may be a bit high for me but for someone with better close focus vision and/or other slight differences in this preference, upper lip is good for discussion purposes.
Any height computation is based on variables such as the height of the ballhead, the specific camera body height, and most importantly the use of a grip.
Because of that I don't think it is a good idea to try to cut too many decimal places when computing that ideal height. And few people ever really shoot most of the time on truly level ground.
I think this accommodates the 3" discrepancy you see?
At 5'7" I consider 52" the absolute rock bottom minimum for me, and not ideal. And honestly I can't remember if that is with or without a grip but whenever i set up my 52" tripod, in any normal configuration I come to the same conclusion. I consider my GT3541LS to be more ideal for general shooting because it gives me 5" of slack beyond that, for whatever reason. That is why I try to recommend a 57" or taller tripod for people my height, and adjust accordingly based on their height.
I have a need for a taller tripod for birding but you did not stress that so I did not talk about it, that being a very personal need (but certainly not uncommon here).
There are other reasons, such as interior architecture where you want a high vantage point but I simplify by assuming that if you have such an obviously defined need you've figured that out yourself.
I think I covered everything? Hope that helps to clarify things and I hope my long dissertation on plate choice made sense.
my Nikonians gallery.
#5. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 0
Welcome to the Nikonians!!
I am sure Neil will be back to answer your additional questions so I will leave that to him. I just wanted to touch on the plates and L brackets. An L bracket will take the place of a plate, so it is not necessary to have both. An L bracket will allow you to quickly change from landscape to vertical keeping the camera centered on the tripod and maintaining the same eye level. I have a Kirk L bracket that I have never removed from my camera. I think most Nikonians leave their L brackets (or plates) on at all times. I have a Markins M10 head and it is a great match.
I would highly recommend the L bracket over the camera plate. It is a real advantage to be able to change to vertical, keeping the same eye level, so tripod height ajustment is not necessary. With a plate you have to use the grove in the head and swing the camera to the side, changing the eye level and putting the weight off the center of the tripod. As Neil stated, Markins only makes an L bracket for the D700 so this forces you to pick another manufacture such as Kirk, RRS, etc.
Great Smoky Mountains
of North Carolina
#8. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 5Sat 18-Feb-12 04:34 PM | edited Sat 18-Feb-12 04:35 PM by nrothschild
On the subject of the advantage of the L bracket, which I did not address in my already overly lengthy reply...
One of the great benefits of the L bracket that is not frequently discussed is the fact that all ball heads work best when set at the least vertical angle. In other words best with a straight and level view.
This is particularly true of a ball head used in "the sweet spot", as a Markins is designed to do. But in any case, as long as some tension is on the head, it is progressively more difficult to execute very fine and precise framing as the tilt increases.
Flopping a ball head over into portrait mode puts the head in its worst orientation, where using an L keeps the head more or less straight and level.
Of all the other benefits of the L, this is what most keeps me paying obscene money for L brackets .
If ball heads were easier to frame flopped over than it would arguably be easier (or at least equally fast and easy) to flop and re-frame than to un-clamp and re-clamp the camera L bracket (even with a lever). But that is not the case and will never be the case.
This, unfortunately, is often not clear to the user until he/she has had some time behind a quality ball head.
my Nikonians gallery.
#9. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 5Sat 18-Feb-12 04:51 PM
Thanks Jerry. I am looking forward to what Neil has to say, but you raise some good points about the L-bracket. There's 2 reasons why I'm not entirely sold on the L-bracket.
1.) I read on another forum that the L-bracket adds an unpleasant feel to the camera. In other words the bracket digs into your hand. Not seeing one or how they attach, I have no way of knowing if this is true. This is one reason why I was leaning toward a regular plate. On the other hand, I have not seen any other complaints about the L-bracket being bothersome.
Since your L-bracket remains on your camera, does it bother you in any way when you're holding the camera?
2.) Why do ball makers design their balls to swing off center for taking vertical shots if it is such a bad thing? After all, you only swing it over briefly, take the shot, then swing the camera back up. If you have a 3 series Gitzo tripod, a Q-20 ball head and a <200 mm lens, swinging the camera off to the side shouldn't be a problem. With an L-bracket, you must remove the camera, re-orient, then re-attach. I see that as a weakness; you could drop the camera.
#10. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 9Sat 18-Feb-12 05:11 PM
On your point #2 I think I already covered this. Did you miss my last replies? This is simply a fundamental problem and design trade-off of any ball head. I could elaborate on the "why" but it may not be necessary unless I did not make this clear in my previous reply.
On point #1, that is a very personal issue. Although I would prefer to grip a camera sans L bracket it is not a huge problem for me and the benefits of the L and effort it would take to constantly swap the L bracket on and off the body outweigh any discomfort.
I also appreciate the extra protection I get. For example, I am less leery of laying my camera down, left side down, on abrasive surfaces such as concrete. Plus shock protection on at least two sides. This is not a minor issue for me. I actually feel like my camera is relatively "naked" and unprotected when it doesn't have an L on it - that after 6+ years of using one and moistly leaving it attached.
You really need to try it to come to your own conclusion on this. It is an issue that makes typical mail order purchases difficult but these brackets generally come with some sort of money back guarantee if you are careful not to blemish it.
my Nikonians gallery.
#11. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 9Sat 18-Feb-12 05:13 PM
If you were looking at the back of your camera, the vertical part of the L would be on the left side of the camera and the horizontal part on the bottom. I use a Kirk L on my D300 and it doesn't get in the way at all. You are usually supporting the lens with your left hand since your right is on the shutter release so I am not sure how the L would dig in someone's hand.
#12. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 11Sat 18-Feb-12 07:28 PM | edited Sat 18-Feb-12 07:30 PM by nrothschild
>> You are usually supporting the lens with your left hand since your right is on the shutter release so I am not sure how the L would dig in someone's hand.
Here is my personal take on this and I suspect it varies depending on hand size. My hands are not particularly big, and among men would be somewhere around medium or slightly south of that.
When holding a camera as Joe suggests, in landscape orientation, left hand supporting the lens, I have noticed a tendency with some straight (not L bracket) camera plates to dig into my left palm, which I think I use to help support the camera at the camera bottom's approximate front left corner.
Some plates do that, others do not. There is a large variation in the width of straight camera plates as well as the machining or rounding of that critical front left corner. My only experience with that is the few times I've handled someone else's camera with a straight Arca-Swiss plate but it's something I try to note when I do that. I don't personally own any straight plates.
None of my L brackets have that problem because that corner is always nicely rounded by virtue of the fundamental design of all one piece L brackets. I think they sit nicely in my hand wherever that important corner might touch my palm. I can't speak for any of RRS's new 2 piece designs, which come to a sharper angle.
All the above is true in standard landscape orientation. When I am rotated in portrait orientation with an L installed then the entire left side of the L is facing down and sits on my palm. And that may be what other people complain about. I know that that is the one aspect of hand held shooting that I would prefer not to deal with but it does not bother me enough to take the bracket off.
In either portrait or landscape mode, one side of the bracket is facing down and therefore could come in contact with my palm. For some reason I only notice this in portrait mode but that may vary from person to person. No doubt Joe is holding the camera slightly different than me even though we are doing roughly the same thing.
my Nikonians gallery.
#13. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 12Sat 18-Feb-12 08:57 PM
> When I am rotated in portrait orientation with an L installed then
>the entire left side of the L is facing down and sits on my
>palm. And that may be what other people complain about. I
>know that that is the one aspect of hand held shooting that I
>would prefer not to deal with but it does not bother me enough
>to take the bracket off.
I actually had to go try this since I never noticed exactly where the L touches. When I use the 17-50 in portrait orientation the L does touch the palm area very lightly so that is why I never noticed that it did actually come in contact with my hand. When I use the 70-200 and 70-300 it does not come close. Neil as you mentioned the L is rounded so there are no sharp edges that could dig into my hand. Since I do not use standard camera plates I cannot comment on how one might contact my hand when in portrait orientation.
#14. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 13Sat 18-Feb-12 09:37 PM
Thanks for the update, Joe.
One thing I forgot to mention is that when in portrait orientation the bottom bracket is now to the right and interferes with the normal camera grip of a vertical grip. And that may well be the biggest complaint among those that complain about it and probably what I was thinking in my middle of the road opinion on comfort.
Different lenses will result in different interactions with the grip. At one extreme, with a physically very long lens like a 70-200 my left hand is more or less half way out on the lens, and distant from the grip. In that case the grip completely disappears from the feel of the camera.
A small prime like a fast 50 forces me to fully rest the camera on my palm since I can only get two fingers around that small lens barrel. And in that case the very rounded corner of the L takes the weight on that hand and there I find it more comfortable than without a grip .
Other lenses will be somewhere in between so many opinions may simply be based on the most frequent lenses used, as well as reactions to any hand contact with the grip.
my Nikonians gallery.
#15. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 9
When properly holding a camera, the left hand is holding the lens and the camera or L bracket is resting lightly on the palm. Once you mount the bracket and use it a couple of times, you will not give it a thought.
the way I hold my camera, a plate would rest on my palm the same as the L bracket, except in portrait. Like Neil, I like the extra protection the L bracket gives the camera. Here is a link that will show you how it looks on a camera.
My guess as to why ball makers design the ball to swing off center is that they were manufacturing them long before the L bracket came into play. It is their way of giving a means to shoot portrait. I was asked why do tripods offer a center column if it is not a good idea to extent them to their maximum. Maybe a marketing tool??
I am not an engineer so I really don't know how much would be compromised by swinging a 200mm lens off to the side, maybe Neil has tested that. I would have to think there are some trade offs by shifting the weight off the center of the tripod. It also lowers the eye level causing you to stoop down, where the L Bracket maintains the same level in landscape and portrait.
As to dropping my camera while making the change, I am probably the only photography that leaves my neck strap around my neck while using a tripod. It is just another measure of safety that I take. I never carry my tripod over my shoulder with the camera mounted either. I usually remove my camera to change positions. I use the screw type clamp and do not find it a problem, it is pretty fast.
Deidre, while I do not use protrait mode that much, the L bracket paid for itself the first time I switched it.
Great Smoky Mountains
of North Carolina
#16. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 15Sun 19-Feb-12 03:37 PM
>> I am not an engineer so I really don't know how much would be compromised by swinging a 200mm lens off to the side, maybe Neil has tested that.
In fact I have .
I first tested that here, with a D70 and D2h, with lower resolution than modern cameras. Interestingly, I did that test in response to a comment here by a member that claimed, somewhat counter-intuitively, that in portrait mode an L bracket generates more vibration, not less vibration, than flopping the camera over when using a straight bottom bracket.
The short story is that my tests, which have been done with more modern cameras like my D300 and D700 (but the results unpublished to date in my gallery) all confirm that contention. You can see it in the D70/D2h sample images linked above, and I can assure you that it is repeatable with my later 3 bodies (including a D200), although certainly to varying degrees and my last tests on the D300 and D700 suggests for whatever reason it may be less of a problem than my older tests suggest.
The theory behind this is that the corner of the L bracket where the bottom plate and side plate meet acts like a flexible hinge. When the L bracket is mounted in landscape mode there is a solid connection from the ball head platform to the plate to the camera. In that orientation I seriously doubt it matters if the bracket is a straight bracket or L because then the side bracket is not involved in the support chain- it is then just a tiny bit of dead weight.
When you put the L bracket in portrait mode now the solid link of support stops at the left side bracket. The camera itself is "floating" on that hinge.
Bjorn Rorslett has also discussed this problem on his site. He is extraordinarily demanding of his support, more than anyone I know who has cared to publish those thoughts. His solution is to custom make his own L brackets such that there is contact between the camera left side and the mating plate. His solution, by design, necessarily omits access to the rubber side door. That alone would probably make any commercial equivalent a failure since "the market" demands ever better access to that door, not less.
Over time I think that at least RRS has looked at this issue because I am finding that my later RRS L brackets seem to attempt to better contact the left side although it is not clear to me if there is enough contact to help. Even Bjorn Rorslett's design, what little I've seen of it, puzzles me because I would think it impossible to get solid enough contact with the rubber coated left side (and door) to actually make "a solid connection". Hard to explain so I will leave it at that.
Some L brackets are slotted such that the camera can be moved back and forth, varying the distance between the left side door and left side plate. My advice is to butt the plate up against the door if the slot allows it and you don't need access to the door.
Publicly, and privately if you ask, RRS is adamant that this problem does not exist, despite the evidence to the contrary in the form of my own publicly published tests and maybe a few others available on the net.
Now... this is an extraordinarily complex issue because the performance of a camera flopped over is highly dependent on the stability of the tripod with that off center load. Tripods will vary, as well as the surface and the camera, lens and head. My results are not necessarily repeatable in any given consideration and my test environment was relatively friendly to off center flopping of the head. More so than some typical field situations.
That is one of the many reasons I typically recommend a Series 3 against a Series 2 when there is no compelling need for the slightly lesser weight and bulk of the Series 2. The overall extra beef and slightly wider leg stance help at the margins in peculiar situations like this.
I mainly tested lenses of 100mm or more., I do not own or have ready access to non-collared lenses longer than 200mm (a 200mm f/4 Ai). I would expect proportionately more vibration with a 70-300 type non-collared lens, which is generally the longest focal length available in non-collared lenses.
On the one hand, I do not worry about this vibration, and I can show you the same problem when comparing a D300 or D700 without grip to shots using even the relatively expensive and well engineered MB-D10.
You will get more vibration with the grip but I don't always take my grip off when I put the camera on a tripod (too much effort) unless I have some compelling reason to think I cannot use proper technique and might need all the stability I can get. I do favor shooting my cameras sans grip on a tripod when I don't need the additional frame rate and that is one reason I own 3 L's for the two cameras, one for the grip and one for each body sans grip.
These vibration tests were done at 100mm or greater and indoors in ideal no wind conditions on a hard flat slate floor where I do all my controlled testing. At those focal lengths, the sharpest possible image at the most critical shutter speeds demands mirror up or at least Exposure Delay Mode.
Because of that, avoiding an L but not using some form of mirror delay at those focal lengths at critical shutter speeds is only going to result in less vibration, not zero vibration, so it is the wrong solution to the problem. And this is why I don't worry too much about this issue.
Using mirror up or exposure delay with an L bracket in portrait orientation will solve the mirror slap generated from the L bracket hinge and that mirror slap is repeatable and consistent and unchanging. In the meantime, it never hurts to have the camera better balanced on top of the mount and head, and that is impossible to predict because it is so dependent on the environment, the setup and all the gear involved.
On the other hand, because my tests contradict RRS's claims to the contrary, you will never see me making the argument that an L bracket is "more stable". Mainly because I try not to get into this complex mess unless it comes up. And it is RRS that started the mantra that L brackets are "more stable".
Anyone with an L and a collarless lens of 100mm or greater can do their own tests and come to their own conclusions. If they do not believe me they should! And they should do these tests in any event just to better understand the limitations and quirks of their gear. And even those without an L should test their gear's performance with the head flopped over to determine if an L might help, although that determination would be complicated by the issues I raised .
my Nikonians gallery.
#17. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 16Sun 19-Feb-12 04:26 PM | edited Sun 19-Feb-12 04:27 PM by WD4MLA
Neil, I have learned more about tripods, heads, and brackets by reading your interesting and detailed posts than I ever could elsewhere. I appreciate all the time you put into an answer and that you always present the facts with an open mind.
Just being able to read your posts makes being an Nikonian worthwhile.
Thank you for your service!!
Great Smoky Mountains
of North Carolina
#7. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 0
Adorama had the GT3542LS listed and in stock earlier this morning. I was looking for the new Gitzo 4 and 5 series when I found the new 3 series.
You communicated some confusion about the plates and clamps and possible compatibility issues.
There are an assortment of plates, lens foot replacements, integrated lens collar/foot replacements for lenses. There are also camera specific plates and L-Brackets. Markins, Kirk, RRS, Arca Swiss and Wimberley all make an assortment of the above for cameras and lenses.
Each manufacturer builds their hardware to specific tolerances (width and thickness). When using a screw clamp different width and thickness of a lens foot will not make a difference since you can manually adjust the tightness of the clamp by turning the knob as needed.
With a Markins lever release you will place the camera plate in the clamp and close it. If it is not tight enough you will then adjust the tension on the lever to the point that the lever will close tightly. Now lets say you have a 70-200VR with a Kirk replacement foot. When you place the foot in your clamp and close the lever you may find there is a little play due to width or thickness (example only). To correct for this you would again have to adjust the lever tension. I am sure you can see by this example how this could be an issue and why it is recommended using the same manufacturer for all plates, replacement foot or L-Bracket when using a lever release. The last thing you want to do in the field is keep adjusting lever tension whenever you change lenses or go from a lens with a foot to one without.
When a manufacturer like Wimberley guarantees compatibility with RRS lever clamps they are saying that their plates, foots and L-Brackets are manufactured to the same tolerances as the RRS equivalent.
I hope this will give you a little better understanding of how it all works. I am sure Neil will answer your questions in greater detail.
#18. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 7Mon 20-Feb-12 11:21 PM
Neil, Jerry, and Joe: Thanks to all of you for your helpful posts! Great information! This has been a steep learning curve, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I had to take a break and think about everything.
Meanwhile, I flirted with the idea of going to a 2 Series Gitzo paired with a Q-10. I even went over to the "dark side" (Cannon Forum) to find out what people had to say about the Series 2 vs Series 3 Gitzos (heck, there was a ton of posts on the new RRS tripods but I decided enough is enough). After reading all that, I came to the same conclusion: go for the Series 3. It is a little bit redundant for what I've got right now, but allows for future growth in lenses and provides extra stability in windy, rough field condition (VERY important in my case).
Neil, after reading some of your comments about compatibility, I was thinking I should go with a screw knob on the M-20, but to be honest I prefer the lever, I set out to find a way to make the new Markins w/lever work. In the Survey "Lever Clamp Compatibility" someone there mentioned having the M-20 with clamp together with the RRS L-bracket. They said it fit/worked fine. I realize there are many scenarios involving future camera bodies, lenses and plates, but if I go this route, RRS should have plates to fit the Markins Q-20 w/lever. This is a question better answered by Markins...I will call them and ask what plates will fit. One thing I've learned from you all is not to paint myself into a corner. ~~ Deidre
#21. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 18Mon 20-Feb-12 11:53 PM
The RRS plates will work fine or I'll eat your plate . I have never heard any issues about the RRS plates on Markins levers. They *may* work better than any other maker simply because RRS engineered a lever clamp so intolerant of plate variation that they were forced into very tight tolerances themselves. That's one of the reasons I like their plates.
The one issue you may have regards the stop pin in the Markins clamp. The stop pin is on the lateral center line of the clamp, just slightly offset from dead center. Easily seen in the product photos. Most plate makers, including RRS, and Markins, I believe, tend to put their camera body bolt dead center. That can interfere with the stop pin if you try to put the camera dead center.
It is tough to figure this out for any specific plate because I rarely see photos of the bottoms of plates.
I have seen occasional complaints and comments about this, and at least once regarding a Markins plate. It is just the nature of the beast. The problem may or may not occur with any given plate, depending on the exact milling and placement and depth of the screw
I would not worry about that. Worst case you just don't rely on the stop pin, which many people, including me, do not have at all on most or all their clamps. And if the pin is sitting over the body bolt or some other raised milling, it *should* click into place in the event the camera slides. The main problem, I guess, is when shooting panos and trying to set a perfect nodal point. Otherwise, with my Q3, which has a stop pin, I just slide the plate until it clicks in and if it's a bit off center it's no big deal.
I only point this out because you are doing your homework and may find a comment or two about it. It is not unique to any particular plate maker.
my Nikonians gallery.
#22. "RE: Need help choosing tripod and ball head" | In response to Reply # 18Tue 21-Feb-12 01:02 AM
You are very welcome and I am sure that once you receive your tripod and head you will never look back.
I think you made the right decision going with a series 3, I have a series 2 but my decision was made on my being older than dirt and knowing I would not be using it with long lens. The longest lens I have ever put on it is my 16-85VR. If I thought I would ever use a 200mm lens, I would have gone with a series 3.
The RRS L bracket will work fine with the lever. What we are all saying is if you buy a Markins lever and RRS L bracket, you will not have to re-adjust the lever if you buy another camera and get another RRS L bracket for it. If you have one camera with the RRS bracket and a second camera with a Kirk L bracket, it "may" require a slight adjustment when you change from one to the other. Bottom line if you buy the RRS L bracket for your present camera, stay with RRS for any future brackets.
Great Smoky Mountains
of North Carolina